Saturday, May 21, 2016

A JOB FOR ME

For this Summer's Boogaloo production.

This is the opening number. It's not really an overture, but it's an introduction to characters we'll see later in the play. It serves to set the tone of the play as well. In 1907, Union was a bustling boomtown that had gone from about 500 residents to nearly 10,000 in the space of a couple of years. In other productions set in later times, we focused on the drudgery of working in the mills, and their institutional nature, but not here. This is a time in which recruiters actively scoured the countryside for workers, offering what was at the time top-dollar wages. And the folks were ecstatic to have the steady employment.

Here we meet a family of mountaineers who've left the Appalachians for work; the people of Union County who regularly rode the short line to Union and Buffalo mills; a pair of con men who will figure prominently in the script; "hospitality ladies" who see to lunches and lodging; and the Stationmaster.







A JOB FOR ME

[MOUNTAIN FAMILY]
The man from the Union Mill came by
He said he got a job for me!
Said he built him a mill house five miles high
And he got a job for me!
My fam’ly will be welcome there
They’re buildin’ me a mansion with room to spare
I even heared they got plumbin’ there!
And they got a job for me!

[TOWNSFOLK]
They’s  people rollin’ in from miles around
‘Cause they got a job for me!
I never seen such a busy town!
With plenty of jobs for me!
My fortunes will be gotten
In that friendly land of cotton
I’m gonna be on Easy Street
‘Cause they got a job for me!

[ALL]
So we’re all aboard a southbound train
And possibly we’ll never see
These rollin’ hills again.
There’s a land of opportunity
Prac-ti-cal-ly beggin’ me to
Plant myself and settle down
Nevermore to roam
So now I’m makin’ Union my new home!

[CON MEN]
Look at the money just walkin’ around!
Oh, the possibilities!
Y’know, we could get rich in this little town
Oh, the possibilities!
We’ll just sell ‘em whatever they think they need
So long as we can make it for chicken feed
That’s just good business, don’t call it greed!
Oh, the possibilities!

[HOSPITALITY LADIES]
Just sit right back and rest a spell
Enjoy the hospitality!
Our sandwiches will ring your bell
Enjoy the hospitality!
Our sweet tea tastes like it was blessed!
So sit right down and be our guest
The food here is the very best
Enjoy the hospitality!

[STATIONMASTER]
So welcome to our friendly town
We hope you’re going to cozy up
And want to settle down
It’s a land of opportunity
Filled with possibility
Enjoy the hospitality
And put away your fear
If you’re like me you’re gonna like it here!



LYRICAL NOTES

The lyrics keep hitting on the theme of each verse, notably, jobs and opportunity. The hospitality ladies are doing their job... today, the City of Union's motto is "City of Hospitality".

Note that there's a bit of exaggeration in the mountaineers' verse; a staple of Appalachian storytelling. That mill is taller than anything they've ever seen that wasn't made by God. Speaking of which, they're not getting just a house, but a mansion; which is Biblical allusion to their expectation of a little slice of Heaven. By the way, it's a fact that the mills did provide housing. I myself lived in one of the mill houses on Mill Hill. It wasn't situated on a street... rather, the front door opened onto a small walkway that lead straight to the mill itself.

(Note: I'm pretty sure that my friend Edric will cringe at the fact that the "Easy Street" line doesn't rhyme with "cotton". Not all of us are perfect. :) )

Even the con men are struck by opportunity. And by placing the hatching of their scheme here in the opening song, we can go straight into it later, without a lot of to-do. They're con men... selling "snake oil" is what they do.

The Stationmaster's verse calls back to each of the previous verses, in part because it gets reprised at the end of the play as the closing number:

[TOWNSFOLK]
So welcome to our friendly town
We hope you’re going to cozy up
And want to settle down
It’s a land of opportunity
Filled with possibility
Enjoy the hospitality
And put away your fear
If you’re like me you’re gonna like it here!


MUSICAL NOTES

It's just simple. It starts with a train whistle, and with a snare drum approximation of the chugga-chugga of a railroad train, joined by a musical motif that keeps it moving. The only tricky part was coming up with something that could be "sung" by absolutely anybody, regardless of vocal ability. You'd think it rare to cast people who can't sing in a musical, and you'd be wrong. It's the most common thing in theater.

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